Monday, 5 December 2011

Algeria: A new political map of North Africa

An editorial in the DRS-controlled daily, Ennahar, on 28th November, described Algeria as “surrounded by Islamism in the east and terrorism in the south.”

The result of France's 'good war' in Libya, and Algeria's duplicity in the Sahel, have created what the Algerian regime now sees as a new political map of the Maghreb and Sahel. In its bitter invective, Ennahar described how these events have enabled France “to re-establish its influence in its former Sahel colonies and to install political systems that obey her in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.” This new political map represents, in the eyes of Algeria's rulers, the revival of France”. Algeria now sees itself as the “the only country outside the circle, surrounded from the east and the west by pro-France Islamist governments, from the southeast by a country ruled by armed gangs after the fall of Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi and from the extreme south by weak regimes that cannot disobey orders from the Elysée.”

Most analysts would argue that Ennahar's analysis is exaggerated and a reflection of the neurosis of Algeria's rulers. Certainly, neither Morocco, nor Tunisia and Libya 'obey' France, while it is a moot point whether the Sahel states would be more inclined to disobey orders from Washington or Paris.

Nevertheless, elements within the Algerian regime are clearly angered by the situation in which they now find themselves, with the result that we are more than likely to see that anger being manifest in further action (i.e. 'terrorism') against French interests in the Sahel.

Indeed, the Ennahar 'analysis' raises the question of whether the kidnap of two Frenchmen at Hombori in Mali on 24th November, followed by the shooting of a European tourist and the kidnap of three others in Timbuktu the next day, might be the first salvoes in an expression of renewed antagonism towards France, its influence and interests in the region and perhaps, in the light of the Libyan rebellion, NATO itself.

These latest terrorist incidents in the Sahel are analysed in depth in the December issue of Sahara Focus. However, they do have major implications for Algeria.

While almost all media reports, especially those in Algeria, have assumed that the attacks have been undertaken by Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

our information from Gao, Timbuktu and Goundam, is that the attacks were most likely undertaken by Tuareg. That does not exclude possible AQIM involvement, nor the possibility that the five hostages will end up in the hands of AQIM.

According to local people in the region, however, at this stage it appears that the Tuareg who were involved, were returnees from Libya and were probably from Qadhafi's army or mercenaries. Local people believe that their primary motives were to seek revenge against France and NATO for the toppling of Qadhafi, and with the possibility of making some money on the side.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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